Posts Tagged ‘running tips’

I got back into running when my daughters were ages 3, 6 and 9. At that time, it made the most sense for me to run in the morning, either before my husband left for work or right after I dropped the kids off at pre-school and elementary school. Now that my kids are 10, 13 and 16 though, I have realized that I’ve transitioned into being an evening runner! I make the most of the hours they are in school by getting things done at home, because after 3 p.m. it’s a rush of driving kids to various activities, cooking dinner, and helping with homework until I drop into bed around 10 p.m. So how and why do I get in those evening runs? I have learned that the best way to spend an hour while a child is at gymnastics, ballet or tennis lessons is to get in a workout! I can tell you where the park with a quarter-mile dirt track is next to the gymnastics center, how to sneak onto the high school campus near the ballet studio to run on the rubberized track, or where to run through the neighborhood near the tennis center to get to the half-mile paved path! It’s not easy to run in the late afternoon or evening, but I have learned some tips to make the most of it.

  1. Slow down and lower your expectations. This is one of the hardest things to do. I’m a type-A runner who generally likes to keep an eye on my pace and on my mileage. But I’m also a morning person. By 4 p.m. my get-up-and-go has all but gone. So I do what I can, and I don’t push the pace if I’m not feeling it that day. That’s especially true in the heat of a Southern California afternoon, when I have to pay particular attention to staying hydrated and not overheating. Three to four slow(er) miles is better than no miles at all, and in fact I give myself bonus points for completing a tough run. Those late-day and hotter-temperature runs might not be building speed, but they are building mental toughness and preparing you for less-than-ideal race day conditions.
  2. Throw in hill work, fartleks or quarter-mile repeats. For days when you find yourself with a little more energy or your training plan calls for some speed work, there are a few good ways to do that in the afternoon or evening. Hill work is speed work in disguise, so head to the nearest hill. On your way up you don’t have to pick up the pace to get in some of the same benefits of faster-paced run, and on the way down you get to practice your leg turnover when it’s easier to run faster down the hill! Fartleks also work well — even after a long day you can run a little faster to the next stop sign or the next turn on your route. And I use the motivation of the time crunch (“Only 40 minutes to get a run in before the 45-minute lesson is over, I’d better run faster!”) to run as fast as I can for some quarter-mile repeats with quarter-mile rest intervals in between.
  3. Stay safe. This should go without saying, but it does bear repeating. For those afternoon and evening runs, it’s particularly important to wear brightly colored and reflective clothing and, if it’s really getting dark out there, run with knuckle or shoe lights, a flashlight, or the light on your phone. And if you’re running in a new area, make sure you have a map and keep your wits about you. No headphones in the ears, and no wandering off the beaten path. Tell someone where you’re going and when you will be back. Take advantage of places where people tend to congregate in the evenings — I often feel the most safe at the track where kids are practicing for after-school sports under the stadium lights, or at the park where people gather on a Friday night for a family barbecue.
  4. Enjoy new routes if possible. If you’re planning an evening run after work, try getting in a run by your workplace before heading home, or map out a loop that starts out from the day care center where you will pick up your kids. After years of running the same loops around my neighborhood, I’m enjoying the opportunity to explore new running routes in areas I wouldn’t typically drive to for a run. If I’m a 20-minute drive from my house for my daughter’s music lesson, it’s an opportunity to explore four miles of new terrain! If I’m an hour drive from my house for my other daughter’s ballet audition, you can bet I’m going to run on the nearby river path I scouted out on my computer before I left home!
  5. Appreciate the perks of night runs! One of my favorite runs ever was the night leg I did for the Napa Valley Ragnar when I ran past the cemetery at 3 in the morning! It was so peaceful and quiet and so different from my usual running experience. And check out this view from a recent after-dinner run:

    Southern California sunset

    I love the silhouettes of the trees against a gorgeous Southern California sunset!

6. Bring a change of clothes and a snack. If your evening run does not end at your doorstep, consider packing a clean change of clothes. I don’t know about you but I cannot stand being in sweaty running clothes for a second longer than I have to. And I like to refuel within half an hour of running so if I won’t be home within that time, I bring along a nutritious snack.

7. Plan your post-workout routine to help you wind down before bed. An evening run can rev you up and keep you from falling asleep at night. If you can, plan to get in your run a least an hour or two before bedtime. I confess I’ve gotten in workouts from 8-9 p.m., which is cutting it a little close to bedtime for me. In those instances, I make sure to relax with a cup of tea and a hot shower, if not a hot bath. Those nighttime rituals, combined with the satisfaction of getting in my workout for the day, help me prepare for a good night’s sleep and enough recovery before the next day.

Are you a morning runner, evening runner, or both? Any tips or tales to share?

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Should you throw in a half marathon or a shorter race in your training for a full marathon? Or a 10K in your training for a half? The authors of Run Less, Run Faster do not recommend it, because runners often get swept up in the excitement of the race and end up running it faster than the targeted training pace, or running farther than planned for the scheduled training distance. I, however, have a 13-mile training run on the calendar for Saturday, and the targeted training pace would leave me with a PR in the half marathon (I ran my one-and-only half at the OC Marathon last year in 1:55:10). I am not worried about running faster than the targeted training pace of 8:35; in fact I am hoping the adrenaline of the race and the fun of running somewhere new will push me to hit the pace. [Edited to add: I ended up running the Spring Blast Half Marathon at an 8:40 pace in 1:53:34 for a PR of 1 minute 36 seconds! You can read the race recap and review here.]

A “B” goal race tucked into the training for an “A” goal race can do several things:

  • Shake off the cobwebs and get you ready for the big race.
  • Allow you to practice your race day preparation: carb-loading, breakfast before the race, clothing, gear and fuel.
  • Boost your confidence if you do relatively well.
  • Show you where you can improve from your mistakes in the “B” race so you don’t repeat them on “A” race day.

The trick is to choose your “B” race wisely.

  • Chose a race that is as close to the planned training run distance as possible. You might think you’ll run a 10K and tack on an extra 3 miles to get your 9 mile training run in, but it’s not easy to do. I’ve done that once after the La Habra 10K and it was not easy, nor was it exactly wise to race my hardest then slog through three more slow miles just to get the mileage in. I didn’t injure myself but I’m not sure I did myself any favors either. That said, I still don’t regret it.
  • Find a race that mimics the “A” race course, if possible. The last 6 miles of the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon run along the beach boardwalk in Ventura. For my “B” race this weekend, I’ve chosen to run the Spring Blast Half Marathon along the beach boardwalk in Huntington Beach. You better believe I’ll be using the opportunity to visualize those last six miles along the beach as I run Saturday’s race.
  • Don’t go for something new. It’s a bad idea to pick a trail race, a mud run, or an obstacle run if you’re training for a road race. Only the opposite might be true — I imagine it would be fine to run a “B” road race if you’re training for a trail race, although it would be a shame to miss an opportunity to practice racing on the trails before the big day.

What not to do:

  • As I mentioned above, it’s not a good idea to give the “B” race your all-out effort, above and beyond your goal training pace. You risk injury and if even you are not injured, it will take you longer to recover from the run than it would have if you stuck to your goal training pace. Now, if I happen to hit the targeted 8:35 for 12 miles and still feel pretty good, I’m not promising I won’t give it a little kick at the end. 😉
  • Don’t try out new gear. We all know it’s never a good idea to wear new clothing or gear on race day and you should not be tempted to break that rule for a “B” race training run. I got these beauties in the mail today, but I won’t be putting them on for Saturday’s race:


Brooks Adrenaline 13

Wouldn’t the green be perfect for a “Spring Blast” half marathon?! Still, I refuse to be temped.

What about you? Do you incorporate a “B” race into your training for a longer distance race? I have even been known to throw in a triathlon or two into my training for a full marathon.

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When you shell out some major cash for a half marathon or a full, you want to take the race seriously. And it’s not just about the Hamiltons, Grants and Benjamins — the smarter you train, the more you’ll enjoy the race.

What exactly should you consider as you select and train for your specific race? The terrain, weather, race course rules, and available on-course fuel.

The Course Description and Course Maps

Examine the course maps at three critical points in your training journey: (1) when you select a race, (2) as you plan your long training runs, and (3) during taper before race day.

When you read the course description and examine the course maps (both the route and elevation maps), the obvious first step is to find out whether the course is dirt trails, asphalt or concrete. Naturally if it’s a trail race you’re going to need to hit the trails for a majority of your runs and if it’s asphalt or concrete, you’d better be pounding the pavement. Some of your training runs can be done on the treadmill, but don’t be tempted to do all your winter runs indoors. Treadmills make running slightly easier with the moving belt and the lack of wind resistance. You can try to compensate for those by adjusting the incline on the treadmill but nothing will compensate for the difference in impact from the softer treadmill to the unforgiving concrete. I run three times a week and try to limit my time on the treadmill to one run (I love doing speed work on the treadmill!) and take the other two outside. Make sure each of your long runs simulates the course terrain. Long runs help you practice for the big race!

Next determine whether the course is pancake flat, hilly, or all downhill. If you live in a flat section of Florida but you’re training for the challenging hills of the Carlsbad Half Marathon or Big Sur International Marathon in California, try doing some bridge repeats for your “hill” work. If you’re training for a mostly downhill marathon like the California International Marathon or the Colorado Marathon, your knees will thank you if you practice several of your long runs on a downhill grade. For my first twenty-mile run of this training session for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, I chose a route that ran from inland to the beach to mirror the full marathon course from the mountains in Ojai to the beach at Ventura.

Weather Considerations: Season and Humidity

Marathon training requires you to look at what the weather will be like both for the race itself and for the season during which you will be training for it. Ask yourself honestly whether you can train for a spring marathon like Boston through the winter conditions in your area (plenty of people do it, the question is are YOU willing to run in the snow?) A marathon with the humidity of the Honolulu Marathon differs vastly from the dry air for the IMS Arizona Marathon. Make sure you get in at least a few training runs that mimic the race day weather and humidity. It will be critical to plan your fueling and hydration for the expected conditions on race day.

Race Course Rules: Music and Support

If you love to run with music then it’s critical to check whether or not a given race forbids running with ear buds in. If you’re a music junkie but have your heart set on a race that bans your iPod, be sure to get in a few long runs without the tunes. You’ve got to practice your mental game as well as your physical. Another option is to seek out a race from the Rock ‘n’ Roll series to get your music fix.

More important to me is whether the race rules permit course support by family and friends. I’m not talking about whether friends can bandit a race to help a runner to the finish, I’m talking about whether your biggest supporters will be allowed near the course to cheer you on with signs or pass you a replacement fluid bottle. When I investigated some winter and spring marathons in California and Arizona, I ruled out the Death Valley Marathon (in spite of its gorgeous course) because of this deal-breaker rule: “NO PERSONAL SUPPORT! Your friends and family members may not drive along the course during the event – not to provide support, not to take your photo, not even to watch/cheer.” By contrast, many of my runner friends love the way the Surf City Marathon course loops back and forth to give runners the opportunity to connect easily with family and friends multiple times throughout the race.

Available On-Course Fuel and Sports Drinks

I like to carry my fuel with me so I’m not going to select a marathon based on the fuel offered on the course, but I do pay attention to which brand of gels sponsors a particular race and what type of sports drink will be offered on course just in case. When I trained for the Santa Barbara International Marathon I ordered up two tubs of FLUID Performance Drink to see how I liked it and whether or not I could rely on it to fuel me on race day (answer: yes, I like the Blueberry Pomegranate flavor, the product agrees with me, and I continue to train with it even after Santa Barbara).


When you train for a half or full marathon, use your long training runs to practice the race and course conditions. Right now I’m training for a “slight hill then all downhill, concrete road and asphalt trail, spring weather/dry air, family-friendly, Clif Bar and FLUID Performance Drink” full marathon. What are you training for?

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The Brea 8K is tomorrow. It’s not my “A” race (that is the M2B Marathon in May) but I look at it as an important gauge of how my training is going. I want to beat my time from last year’s 8K race, and I want to hit a pace that shows that my desired marathon pace is achievable (not that a 4.97-mile race is the best predictor of a 26.2-mile time, but still).

The problem is that I’ve got all these pre-race jitters. Can I really run a good race on Sunday when I squeezed my marathon training 17-mile long run in on Thursday morning? Can I run fast when I’m training for long? Will I get to the race on time? Will I dress right for the weather? Will I injure myself and set back my marathon training?

I know that jitters are normal and everyone has them. Even Kelly Ripa had them before the Empire State Building Run-Up earlier this month. Faced with running up 86 flights of stairs, she joked:

I am horrified. I am just doing a countdown until I have to run to the top of the Empire State Building. And nothing has gone the way I envisioned it. I thought for sure by now they would have canceled this [indoor] event due to weather….

Co-host Michael Strahan asked her, “What are you most nervous about?”

Well, failure, death, vertigo, humiliation, pain, suffering, soiling myself, not finishing, hurting something. You know, I just have those basic fears that everybody else has.

Of course none of those things happened and she had a great race, coming in at 18:16 for 6th place of 31 in the media heat, second female in that division. Congrats, Kelly! And thank you for reminding me that everyone gets these irrational fears before a race.

So, what are some techniques to combat these pre-race jitters?

10 Tips for Dealing with Race Jitters

1. Trust your training. Now is not the time to think that you should have thrown in some more speedwork or hill training. Don’t do anything unusual in the days before a race. That’s just asking for trouble.

2. Study the course map. Generally a course map is available online. To ease my race fears I take it one step further and drive the race course if possible. For a triathlon, I often bike part of the run and/or bike course as my bike tune-up the day before a race.

3. Visualize the race. The night before a race, close your eyes and visualize yourself at the start. See yourself racing strong from start to finish. You’ve got to believe it to achieve it!

4. Focus your nervous energy on setting out your race gear and double-checking the race start time and the driving directions to get to the race. Going over every detail before the race will help address any fears about getting to the race on time, with all your necessary gear in hand. This is especially important for a triathlon — go through everything you’ll need for the swim, bike and run portions, and set aside what will stay in transition and what you will keep on you for the start of the race.

5. Set multiple wake-up alarms. One of the things that keeps me awake (or keeps me from falling back asleep the night before a race) is worrying that I will miss my wake-up time. Set an alarm clock, cell phone alarm, friend or partner’s cell phone alarm, hotel wake-up call — any combination thereof.

6. On race day, stick to the plan. Eat what you normally eat before a race or long run. Warm up the same way. Do not look around you at what others are doing and think you should change up what works for you.

7. Do not let the nervousness of others get to you! For as nervous as I am in the days leading up to a race, I actually feel pretty good on race day itself. If I’ve done all I can do to prepare and I make it to the race on time, I am ready and raring to go. I put a smile on my face and block out the anxious faces around me.

Remember the pure joy of running! These girls are loving the Delphi Walk-a-thon. Photo by familylife.

Remember the pure joy of running! These girls are loving the Delphi Walk-a-thon. Photo by familylife.

8. Use the nerves you have to your advantage. Race jitters send nervous racers running for the porta potties. That’s a good thing. Use your race nerves to clean out your system before the race. Warm drinks (like coffee) help with that too.

9. Remind yourself that no one cares about your finish time but you. If you don’t have your best race, no one is going to say, “I can’t believe you didn’t PR!” or “Really, you were that slow?!” You would never say that to a friend, and a friend would never say that to you. Even if your worst fears come true (for me, injury or a big fat DNF: Did Not Finish), you will learn something from the race.

10. Remember that race jitters mean that you care. You wouldn’t be nervous if this wasn’t something important to you. You’ve probably invested a lot of preparation and time into this race. Half the success of the race is showing up trained and ready to go! Pat yourself on the back for committing to the race, to the training, and to showing up at the start line in spite of your fears!

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